"? universal panic and distress"
During the Civil War, neither the North nor the South was totally united over the key issues. Just as some Northerners supported slavery and secession, some Southerners were abolitionist and Unionists. These issues could split families, divide communities, and generate violence. As the "official" war progressed, quasi-military organization were formed to wage another war against soldiers and civilians alike. Ambushes and retaliation comprised the "war within the war" between 1861 and 1865.
By December 1863, almost everyone in and around Elizabeth City had had enough of the violence and bloodshed. The final straw, perhaps, was Union Gen. Edward A. Wild's raid that month. An ardent abolitionist and enthusiastic commander of African American troops, Wild had a well-deserved reputation for an iron-fisted approach to guerilla warfare. During his raid, he had hanged an alleged guerilla beside the road with a placard: "This guerilla hanged by order of Brigadier-General Wild. Daniel Bright of Pasquotank County." Wild had taken white women hostages against the return of captured black troops, announced that "guerillas are to be treated as pirates," and promised to hang even the women if his captured men were hanged. "And you know by this time that I keep my word," he wrote to a Confederate officer.
At about the time that Wild marched back to Virginia, local citizens convened meetings at the Cluff building a block west of here on December 19, and at Cedar Grove Church in the county on the 24th. They petitioned Union Gen. Benjamin E Butler and North Carolina Gov. Zebulon B. Vance, respectively, to withdraw Federal and Confederate forces from the area. Noting that Wild had promised "that he will continue to operate here even to the destruction if necessary of every species of property for the purpose of Ridding this County of Partizan Rangers," the citizens stated their conviction that "these Rangers cannot be of any servis to us But? will bring spedy and inevitable Ruin." They also pronounced themselves opposed to blockade running and promised to suppress it.
Their attempt to "secede from the secession" failed, and the guerillas continued to operate, despite similar resolutions being passed in four neighboring counties.
Major funding for this project was provided by the North Carolina Department of Transportation, through the Transportation Enhancement Program of the Federal Transportation Efficiency Act for the 21st Century